I’m still reading Amanda Foreman‘s mammoth history, A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, despite interruptions since starting in late March to fit in three other books (Andrew Delbanco’s reflections on college education and Harvey Jackson’s short histories of the Florida-Alabama Gulf Coast and of Alabama). This morning I reached the five-eighths point and, at last, the Battle of Gettysburg.
As I mentioned last week, A World on Fire has “a Stoppardian Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead quality, with major events such as the Battle of Chancellorsville told through the eyes of minor characters, typically British observers or participants.” All the more so with the Battle of Gettysburg. I loved reading her account—can one imagine an account that is anything less than spellbinding?—but it isn’t the first place to turn for the basics. Nor does she intend it to be.
We visited Gettysburg three years ago this week, following stops in Harper’s Ferry and at Antietam. (See my entirely inadequate reports on the trip here and here.) Foreman’s overview of the battle, brief though it is, brought back the drama of those extraordinary three days a century and a half ago as well as the powerful hold our visit had on us. I wished as I read the book that I could walk and drive the battleground anew.
What we had as guide three years ago was James McPherson’s slim Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg. Our first day, we visited the museum, then toured the grounds with a licensed battlefield guides. (The guide commandeers your car and drives you around for two hours, taking you through the battle day by day.) The next day, we retraced the steps on our own, reading passages from McPherson as we stopped along the way.
Prior to our battleground visits, on the evening of the day that we arrived, after we had eaten dinner in town, we stopped at the downtown Friendly’s for takeout dessert. I pulled out of the parking lot, made a turn that I thought would get us back to our bed and breakfast, and soon we were driving in darkness down an unlit country road. After five miles, I made a U-turn and we went back into town.
Only the next day did I realize that the road we were mistakenly on cuts right through the battlefield, over the site where the Confederate troops lined up for Pickett’s Charge. And later still, I realized that one can stand at a point above, looking out over the ground, and see Friendly’s just to the right. The north end of the battlefield merges with today’s downtown commercial strip.
This morning, as I read of the charge, I couldn’t stop myself from picturing the Friendly’s and wanting a strawberry Fribble. From the sacred to the profane. That’s how it is, the two intertwined in my memory.
[Photo by Dan Nakano]
I have written several posts about our trip to Georgia last month, such as this one about restaurants in Athens and this one about the Georgia Museum of Art, also in Athens on the UGA campus. But I have yet to write my promised post on our day at the Masters golf tournament, now three weeks past. It’s tough. There’s so much to say, I hardly know what to focus on. In this post, I will tell part of the story. Perhaps more will follow in a second post.
Some background first, lifted from a post I wrote last August.
Augusta National Golf Club … runs The Masters, one of men’s golf’s four major tournaments, and for many players and observers, the best. I have had the good fortune of attending the three other majors: The Open Championship (familiarly known in the US as the British Open) at St. Andrews in 1990 and Troon in 2004, the US Open at Bethpage on Long Island in 2002, and the PGA Championship here at nearby Sahalee in 1998. But I have never gone to the Masters.
There’s a reason. It’s just about the hardest US sports ticket to get hold of. Tickets for the other three majors are made publicly available, but the Masters is like season tickets for team sports: ticket holders can renew their subscriptions, receiving tickets for life. Since the club isn’t interested in making a ton of money through ticket sales, a modest number of tickets is sold compared to other golf tournaments, and ticket prices remain low. Thus, ticket turnover is low too.
Ticket holders are barred by Augusta’s rules from re-selling their tickets, but of course many do, and the resulting prices are high. Once you get on the course, food prices are low. Indeed, the food is flat out cheap. Not cheap just by the standards of a sporting event, but cheap like turning the clock back a few decades.
There used to be a waiting list for available tickets, but the club abandoned that recently. Intead, it makes a small number of tickets available by lottery. You have to set up an account, log in, give them some information, and apply separately for tickets on tournament days (Thursday through Sunday) and on practice days (Monday through Wednesday). There’s a limit, 2 tickets per day on tournament days, 4 per day on practice days. I applied for both a year ago for this year’s Masters and struck out. I applied again a few months ago for next year’s tournament, learning a month ago that I would not be getting tournament tickets.
Now for the big news: Last night, I got an email informing me that I had won the practice round lottery. I was asked to log in for details. On doing so, I learned that I’ve won 4 tickets for Tuesday, the second practice day. Only Tuesday. I need to pay by September 15 or release them.
Not exactly what I was hoping for. Imagine flying all the way to Georgia, finding a hotel, and staying just for one day. It hardly seems worth the trouble.
Then again, the Masters! I can go! I can see the 12th hole at last. And the 13th. And the 14th. All of them! The holes any golf fan has memorized from years of watching the coverage on TV. (I failed to make this point — the other three majors rotate among courses. The Masters is always in one place. Players and fans come to know the course intimately.)
As you know, Gail and I decided to go. We bypassed the problem of finding a hotel room in or near Augusta by staying 95 miles away in Athens. And with four tickets in hand, we invited our Athens friends Dan and RuthElizabeth to join us.
When the day arrived, we awoke around 5:30, and walked out of our hotel at 6:30, just as Dan and RE drove up. First stop, Jittery Joe’s Coffee for coffee, tea, pastries, bagels. Then on to Augusta. The early morning drive through rural Georgia was lovely, with alternating woods and fields, the fields supporting a light fog layer. As it got brighter and warmer, we came to Interstate 20, then turned east for the closing stretch.
Whenever I have pictured this day, arriving at the Masters, I have imagined horrific traffic. Nope. The I-20 exit to Washington Road, one of the borders of the club and a main street of the city, was closed. We were forced farther east, almost to the Savannah River and the bridge to South Carolina, where we exited and formed two lanes of traffic that wound around, crossed Washington Road, and entered the club grounds. This didn’t take much more than five minutes. (It was around 9:00 AM now.)
We were directed to an aisle of parking, about nine aisles away from the course entrance. As we walked through the lot (I should say that the lot is a field of grass; I don’t know what it’s used for during the rest of the year), we found dozens of people selling lanyards at $5 apiece with plastic pockets that could hold your tournament pass. I was content to tie mine to a belt loop. And there was a strange guy holding a post some 15 feet high with signs attached containing various messages about Jesus. (Three days later, he would be arrested for saying aggressively hostile things to some of the patrons as they entered. Or maybe just removed from the grounds by the Augusta police.) Then we formed one of a series of lines leading to bag inspection, metal detectors, and finally a device that reads tickets to verify that they are real. Beyond this last checkpoint, we were in.
But where were we? It took some more walking and map studying to get oriented.
It turns out that there’s a long entry path. You walk in at the far end of the practice driving rang and make your way along one side of it toward the near end, the end with the players. With the range to your left, there is a bathroom building to the right. This is another special feature of the Masters. Typically, a course brings in lots of temporary porta-potties for the spectators. The Masters, partly because they spare no expense and partly because they know they’ll be hosting spectators annually, has a large permanent structure. We decided to stop there first. As Dan and I entered the men’s side, we were welcomed by a friendly gentleman, akin to a Walmart greeter. Then a young man directed traffic into two lines, depending on where you were heading. Additional people kept us moving, and another man (though I only noticed this at the end of the day) was busily wiping down the sink counter as each sink was used. At the end, yet another staff member thanked us for coming.
As one continues to walk the length of the driving range, one reaches practice chipping greens on the left. One now has the option of walking to the end, turning left, and falling in behind the practicing players, or curving right and into a wide pedestrian area with the giant merchandise store to the right and the first food operation to the left. Again, in contrast to other tournaments we’ve gone to where the merchandise tent would be just that—a tent—the Masters has a permanent structure. They run you up a ramp with switchbacks to lead you into the store. There’s a bit of a traffic jam at the entrance, as you reach to grab a basket or bag in which to put your purchases. Beyond that, there are hundreds of customers, and the first few steps are slow, but then it opens up as people choose various directions.
Like the entry gate and the bathrooms, the store was a model of efficiency. The key is huge numbers of staff. There are hats, shirts, what-not, available to grab in assorted places as you walk by. And there are counters with dozens of people behind them ready to help. Want a knit shirt, for instance, with a Masters logo on it? High up on the wall are 15 versions, with numbers 1 to 15. Color choices, logo choices, etc. You find one of the staff—and as crowded as the store is, many staff are free—ask for a number and a size, and he or she reaches into the shelves on the wall, grabs what you ask for, and hands it over. Not what you want? Ask for another number. We got shirts, hats, worked our way to the end, and lined up in the massive checkout area. They must have twenty lines. But each line has perhaps four pairs of people working four registers. One takes your stuff out and organizes it, the other scans it, you hand over your credit card, you get a big plastic bag with your purchase, and you’re out. What we feared would take half an hour took less than ten minutes.
Surely you don’t want to carry all your purchases around, do you? Well, just turn left and get in one of two new lines. One line is for checking your stuff. Several more staff are ready with giant plastic bags that you put all your purchases in, then you get in line, go up to the counter, hand over your bag, and it’s checked. We joined this line first. Then we watched the activity on the second line in awe. They had boxes of every imaginable size from just a few inches square to feet, stacked up, and a few lines with scales, cash registers, and people. This was the onsite UPS Store! And there was basically no line at all. You walk up, one of several men eye your purchases, grabs a box, puts what you bought in it, you go to the counter, it’s weighed, shut, sealed, you give the woman your address, she tells you the cost, you pay, and you’re out. Six days later, the box arrives at home. Nothing to carry, nothing to pack, and no wasted time. It was faster than the line for checking purchases.
Finally, we were ready for some golf. We walked back past the store entrance on the right and food on the left, through an open area with tables and diners, and onto the grass, sacred ground at last. To the right was a giant scoreboard with every participant’s name. To the left, the clubhouse and some other structures. In front of us, the first fairway. The tee box was back to the left, the green to the right. We decided to turn right and begin our walk around the course. (See photo above.) It was near 10:00 am by now. We would spend the next six hours walking the course in order, holes 1 through 18. The thrill of a lifetime.
More on the course in a second post. Here, as long as I’m talking about the non-course experience, let me say something about lunch. Well, before that I’ll describe my principal discovery of the day. Then lunch.
1. Principal discovery. How to put this? Well, keep in mind, the people who run the Masters are a pretty traditional group, “traditional” being code for a very narrow-minded group whose decisions on assorted policy matters are not always welcomed as just. Examples: their long-time exclusion of African-American members; before that, the years it took before they invited African-Americans to play in the Masters; and, until last year, the long-time exclusion of women members. Not everyone loves the members of Augusta National.
But here’s the thing about them that I came to understand. You know about God and the Jews, right? The chosen people and all that? God gave us the Torah and asked us to follow it. In return, God promised to take care of us. More or less. Exodus 19:5:
Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine.
There’s an important point here. In return for God’s gift, his choice of us, we aren’t supposed to ask questions. Don’t ask why the commandments are what they are. Don’t try to make sense of the law. Just do it (as others would be told millennia later). Do it and God will provide.
Do you see where this is leading? I’ll spell it out. The lords of the Masters are our gods. They have chosen us, the lucky few who get tickets onto the grounds of the Masters. They have rules. We follow them. Don’t run. Be courteous to other patrons (that’s what we are—patrons, not fans). Be very courteous to the players. RESPECT! Follow these rules and the lords of the Masters will provide.
Again, simple. The greatest spectator experience in the world is yours if only you obey.
2. Lunch. This is a case in point. Boy do they provide!
I have never eaten a pimento cheese sandwich. I didn’t even know until recently what it consisted of. I didn’t expect to like one. But I knew one thing about them: they are a Masters tradition, priced at just $1.50. I would have to have one.
After we walked the front nine, we headed to the food center that lies between an open spectator area and the tenth fairway. There was a large crowd. But again, Masters efficiency rules. One enters through any of perhaps five chutes. Each chute has identical food choices right or left, yielding in effect ten separate lines. First one finds shelves filled with “snacks”, such as bananas, or potato chips, or popcorn with Georgia pecans, or candy. Just past the snack shelves are the sandwiches, all pre-wrapped in green Masters-logoed paper. The pimento cheese. Masters club. Ham and cheese. Chicken breast. Tuna salad. Egg salad. Bar-B-Que. The most expensive of the bunch are the two hot ones, the barbecue and chicken, at $3.00. Beyond sandwiches are beverages, shelves again with the choices arrayed. Beer or lemonade in Masters-logoed plastic cups. Water in Masters plastic bottles. I can’t remember what else. There must have been Coke.
I had read about their good egg salad. And about the classic chicken sandwich. And the barbecue. What to do? At these prices, who cares? Gail grabbed a banana. Me the popcorn and pecans. We took one pimento cheese to try together. We each got barbecue. I got the chicken, Gail the ham and cheese. We got two bottles of water. Beyond the food was an open area, then the cashiers. Like at the merchandise store, they were experts at moving people through. I was about to get on line when I saw a freezer case in front of them with Georgia peach ice cream sandwiches. We had to try that. This was the one place where the staff had slipped. There were boxes of sandwiches, but no loose ones to grab. Someone had to get in there and tear a box open. I had my arms filled with sandwiches. I put them on the cashier counter, dug in, tore a box open, and handed out sandwiches to other patrons, with one for us.
Time to pay. So that’s five sandwiches, two waters, one ice cream, one popcorn, one banana. Our cashier rang it up. $19! That’s nineteen dollars! What would you get for $19 at a professional football or basketball game? Or a baseball game? I was stunned. But, see #1 above.
Time to eat. Barbecue and chicken: great. Popcorn: great. Georgia peach ice cream: great. Pimento cheese: not my thing, but I have to say, I liked it. Some bite from the pepper. Pretty good. I was tempted to run the chute again so I could try the egg salad. But I was full, and there were nine more holes to see, the most famous back nine in golf.
We walked them, nine to eighteen. The eighteenth brought us up to the practice green. The close proximity of the first tee box, eighteenth green, and practice green is another Masters wonder. And with no grandstands to break up the open space. I peeked over three rows of people to see what was up. There was Phil, putting and hanging out with Steve Stricker. Good timing.
[Photo by Dan Nakano]
Then we wandered past the clubhouse, the pro shop, some other areas out of bounds to us, made a right, and headed into the area between the merchandise building and the first food center we had passed six and a half hours before. Back in the store Dan and I went, so I could buy two more hats while Gail and RE got some drinks across the way. Out in three minutes. To the checkout line so Dan and RE could get the goods they had checked in earlier. Over to the chipping greens near the driving range, where Phil and Ernie and assorted others would make their way as we watched.
I drank my lemonade, gaining a souvenir plastic cup in the process. We had another run at the fancy bathroom. Then we headed out the gate to our car, turned onto Washington Road (away from I-20, as we were forced to do), down Washington into Augusta, onto a highway that heads back north along the Savannah River, with South Carolina across the way, onto I-20, and home.
A perfect day. Thank you Masters gods.
Whenever we go up to Vancouver—less often than we should—we make it a point to pick up a box or two of Cadbury Fingers. And when our friend Cynthia used to get up there a lot, she would generously do the same. But these are even better: straight from the UK. As described on the back of the box, they are
Delicious finger shaped crisp biscuits smothered in yummy Cadbury milk chocolate.
Or, from the website:
This little biscuit is a national treasure and with its delicious combination of milk chocolate and crunchy biscuit, along with its compact size, it’s the perfect treat for the whole family. But be warned, one is never enough!
It’s true. One is never enough. They’re so good that you might think Fred is singing about them in the video below.
We concluded last week’s visit to Athens, Georgia, with a stop at the Georgia Museum of Art. It is “both a university museum under the aegis of the University of Georgia and, since 1982, the official state museum of art. Located on the East Campus of UGA, in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex, it opened in 1948. Recently, it completed an extensive expansion and remodeling of its building, paid for entirely with externally raised funds, that has allowed it to display its permanent collection continually.”
I had looked at the museum’s website before we left Seattle and identified an exhibition that I thought we would enjoy, William H. Johnson: An American Modern. We made it our first stop. Below is the painting that greets you on entering the exhibition space.
According to the website,
William Henry Johnson (1901–1970) is a pivotal figure in modern American art. A virtuoso skilled in various media and techniques, he produced thousands of works over a career that spanned decades, continents and genres. Now, on view in its entirety for the first time, a seminal collection covering key stages in Johnson’s career will be presented in “William H. Johnson: An American Modern.” Developed by Baltimore’s James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Morgan State University, this Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition represents a unique opportunity to share the artist’s oeuvre with a broader audience. This exhibition of 20 expressionist and vernacular landscapes, still-life paintings and portraits investigates the intricate layers of Johnson’s diverse cultural perspective as an artist and self-described “primitive and cultured painter.” An exhibition catalogue, funded in part by the Henry Luce Foundation, features essays by such noted scholars as David C. Driskell, on such topics as primitivism, modernism and African American art; African American artists and the art historical canon; identity and aesthetics in art; and art and art scholarship at historically black colleges and universities.
Photos were not allowed for temporary exhibitions, so I can’t show you any more than the two above from the website, which is unfortunate, because there were many wonderful works. For instance, his Byzantine-influenced paintings of Christ and followers, with African-Americans filling all the roles.
His bright, flat, cartoonlike paintings of jitterbugging dancers and Southern sharecroppers look like the work of a naive outsider on the surface, but they are every bit as knowing and accomplished as the work of such contemporaries as Jacob Lawrence or Romare Bearden. Johnson sought a raw authenticity while also clearly drawing on years of hard-won artistic knowledge.
The exhibition illuminates all major phases of Johnson’s career and arouses a powerful curiosity about how he navigated successfully from the Deep South to the upper East Side of Manhattan and then rural Denmark.
Johnson’s harbor scenes of fishing boats in Kerteminde and of the jagged fjord of Lofoten Island in Norway, which he and Krake visited, feel emotionally raw and exposed. Hypersensitive to mood, light and color, they convey enormous gusto through heavy applications of thick paint.
The later works after Johnson returned with Krake to New York have the concentrated energy and simplicity of an artist at the top of his game.
After Krake’s death from cancer in 1944, Johnson turned to religious themes in paintings constructed mainly out of flat areas of color and pattern. As the show’s catalog points out, Johnson was inspired both by medieval and Renaissance European paintings, as well as African textiles and patchwork quilts from the American South.
Sadly, Johnson grew increasingly disabled after he was diagnosed in 1947 with paresis, a form of dementia caused by syphilis. During a prolonged visit in Denmark in 1946-47, he was picked up for vagrancy and hospitalized in Oslo, Norway.
We next headed to the museum’s permanent collection, which has surprising range. I passed quickly over the Renaissance paintings, this not seeming to be one of the museum’s strengths. Looking now at the photos I took, I can see that I focused mostly on mid-twentieth century. Here are examples:
George Schreiber, The White House, 1945:
Louis Freund, Transcontinental Bus, 1936:
Robert Gwathmey, Hoeing Tobacco, 1946
I included two other paintings in a post last Saturday previewing coming attractions. Recall Jimmy Lee Sudduth’s self-portrait from the late 1980s:
And R.A. Miller’s All the Devils (no date):
Here’s a detail:
Excellent museum. We’re glad we reserved time to visit.
This post is about a stunning failure on my part to make a connection between visual and verbal data. Or, a failure to see what was staring me in the face.
Eight days ago, we boarded a flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta. Once the cabin door was shut and I had to put away my Kindle, I pulled out the Delta flight magazine. Paging through, I came to the crossword and saw that it was edited by Will Shortz, which meant maybe it wouldn’t be overly easy and hence was worth a try.
I borrowed Gail’s pen and began. Soon I came to this clue: “New York’s _______ Island.” Hmm. Governor’s? Roosevelt? No. Too long. The answer was five letters. Ellis? No, the fourth letter was an ‘e’. I moved on.
In a few minutes, we took off, northeast over Long Island Sound, then turning sharply to the left until we were heading west toward New Jersey, with all of New York City laid out below our window. There was Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, the Queensborough Bridge. Farther down, the bridges to Brooklyn. Ahead, Newark and the Giants-Jets football stadium. South again, the Hudson. Oh, there’s the Statue of Liberty. And another island, which even though I had named it five minutes earlier in trying to fill in the crossword puzzle, I couldn’t identify now. (Ellis). And still farther south, Staten Island, with the Bayonne Bridge crossing south to it from New Jersey. And the Narrows, crossed by the Verrazano Bridge. Now we were turning southward and on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, there was Coney Island, which I pointed out to Gail.
Then I returned to the crossword. Still couldn’t figure out that island. A few minutes later, Gail drew my attention to the view once more and I said that that’s the Delaware River flowing into Delaware Bay. But what happened to Philadelphia? We couldn’t find it. We had come too far. Or was I confused. Then more water. The Chesapeake, Gail suggested. Yes, of course, for there was the Susquehanna River flowing into it from the west near its north end, with the bridges crossing the river, familiar from many a train trip over one of them. Soon we looked down on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
It was getting hazy now. I thought we should be able to spot Annapolis, or at least the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We couldn’t.
Back to the crossword.
I was nearly done now. That island, though. Oh, first letter ‘C’, which gave me the partial answer “New York’s C _ _ e _ Island.”
And now it was obvious. Coney Island.
Can you imagine how stupid I felt? It had never occurred to me as we flew over the city to connect the islands I was naming to the crossword. I had even pointed Coney Island out to Gail, yet thought nothing of it.
The mysteries of the brain.
First off, I should clarify that I’m talking about the Athens in Georgia, not Greece, and about Georgia the US state, not Georgia the country in the Caucasus.
As I’ve indicated in previous posts, we flew down to Atlanta from New York last Sunday, then drove to Athens, home of the University of Georgia and fifth largest city in the state. (What’s bigger? Atlanta of course. Also Augusta, Columbus, Savannah.)
That night we had our first of many superb meals, though not at a restaurant. This one was at Dan and RuthElizabeth’s home. Ribs, macaroni and cheese, green beans and Vidalia onions (with or without bacon). A great introduction to southern cooking, even if Dan’s from right here in greater Seattle and RuthElizabeth is from Syracuse. And the red velvet cupcakes that their daughter made were a perfect ending.
Monday morning, Gail and I explored the university and downtown. Having not eaten a real breakfast, we were hungry, so we stopped for an early lunch downtown at Al’s Beef, a Chicago chain whose only non-Illinois locations for now are in Athens and Scottdale. Why Athens has one is a mystery, but I tell you what—if you stumble on an Al’s Beef somewhere, give it a try. It’s implausibly good. We both tried their classic, the Al’s Italian Beef with hot and sweet peppers and provolone.
The Masters golf tournament may be what brought us to Georgia, but once we decided to make Athens our home base (getting accommodations in Augusta would have been hopeless by the time we decided to use the tickets we won in the Masters lottery), a visit to UGA’s math department also became part of the plan, thanks to Dan’s kind invitation. I spent the afternoon in the department, after which we were taken out to dinner at 5 & 10, just down the street from campus at Five Points, pictured above.
This place is great. It is owned by Hugh Acheson. From the website:
Five & Ten is Hugh’s flagship restaurant, started from scratch in 2000. “The menu,” says Hugh, “has always been an open interpretation of Southern food, melding Georgia cookery with French and Italian influences I learned growing up. It’s been a very fun restaurant over the years.”
Acheson’s fresh approach to Southern food has earned him a great deal of recognition including Food & Wine’s Best New Chef (2002), the Atlanta Journal Constitution Restaurant of the Year (2007), a James Beard winner for Best Chef Southeast in 2012, a 2007 Rising Star and 2012 winner of the Mentor Chef award from StarChefs.com.
In 2012, the James Beard Foundation awarded Hugh’s first cookbook A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, published by Clarkson Potter, Best Cookbook in the field of American Cooking.
Gail and I shared two appetizers. One is described on the menu as 5&10 “Little Ears Pasta” stinging nettles, garlic sausage, favas, calabrian peppers, lemon. The other was Romaine Hearts classic caesar dressing, crisp parmesan, bacon, pressed bread. I started with the Caesar and didn’t want to give it up. But once I switched to the pasta, I wished I had more of that.
For the main dish, Gail had Low Country Frogmore Stew gulf shrimp, potatoes, corn, andouille, leek & tomato broth and grilled bread. I’m not a big shrimp eater, but it looked fabulous. And at the end Gail let me try it. Fabulous indeed. I had the Roasted Hanger Steak, anson mills farro, fiddlehead ferns, beet greens, abalone mushrooms. No, that doesn’t sound right. It’s what’s on the online menu, but I didn’t have farro. I had oats. Incredibly good oats, as was everything else.
They have an extensive wine list, plus additional choices by the glass. I tried a glass of Sicilian red, as did Brian. Gail had a rosé, and later a syrah-grenache blend, both French. I can’t remember what, but all were good.
For dessert, in addition to their pastries, they have a daily selection of ice cream, sorbet, and cookies. I went for a scoop of coconut ice cream and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I can’t remember what Gail had. The online menu lists Chocolate Nemesis cake with malt ice cream, white chocolate crumb, brandied cherries, bruleed banana, whipped cream. I know she didn’t have that, but maybe she had a variant.
I was learning fast that people eat well in Athens.
Tuesday was Masters day. We were on the road to Augusta with Dan and RE by 6:45 in the morning, back around 7:15 in the evening. Once we collected the girls (well, they were collected in stages, but no matter), we headed to Cali-N-Tito’s, which is just a block up from 5 & 10, in walking distance of both our on-campus hotel and Dan and RE’s house. It’s a Cuban restaurant, the kind of place where you order and pay at the counter, take a number, and wait for the food to be brought to your table. The line to order was about 25 minutes long, giving Gail and me loads of time to study the menu.
Given Cali-N-Titos’ proximity to campus and the preponderance of students among the diners, I might have had low expectations if not for Dan and RE’s having chosen it. The food came quickly after ordering, and it was good. More than good. I’ve never had a better Cubano sandwich. Standards are high in Athens.
Wednesday Dan and RE joined us for a tour of UGA’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. It’s the UGA sports Hall of Fame—the central atrium anyway—with the offices of the Department of Athletics, workout space, and more in the corners and below. And it’s amazing, to the extent that a university sports museum can be amazing. National championship trophies, Heisman trophies, history, photos, old football helmets, and on and on. One could wander the space for hours.
Next stop was the Georgia Museum of Art, the university art museum that doubles as the state art museum. We were running into time pressure at this point, since we were all supposed to meet Natalie (another Washington native who has found her way to Athens) for lunch, after which Dan and Natalie had to get on with their days. So we cut the museum visit short in order to get over to The Grit.
Natalie had suggested The Grit while we were texting back and forth from the art museum, and I remembered reading about it before the trip, so I instantly agreed. We would meet up in about half an hour, with Gail and me returning to the museum on our own after lunch.
According to The Grit’s wikipedia entry—which is where I must have read about it, since the website information is minimal—
The Grit is perhaps best known for its relationship to the Athens music scene. It is located on the edge of downtown Athens, site of numerous performance venues. The Grit is a popular stop for touring performers and local musicians. Although he is not involved in the operation of the restaurant, the building is owned by R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe. In 2001 the restaurant’s owners published The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes, which contains testimonials from many of The Grit’s fans in the music industry and elsewhere. Admirers included Stipe, Kate Pierson (of the B-52′s), Kevn Kinney, Vic Chesnutt and Spalding Gray, along with members of Pylon, Widespread Panic, Fugazi, The Jayhawks, Counting Crows, and even Hee Haw’s Marianne Rogers. The Grit’s menu is entirely vegetarian, and a significant portion of items are vegan.
And from the website:
If you’ve never visited The Grit, you should know that we’ve been an old favorite in Athens, GA for more than two decades. We serve vegetarian food in a way that appeals to ALL kinds of eaters. The lure of delicious homemade food served in generous portions at inexpensive prices, coupled with a lovingly restored pair of handsome dining rooms in a splendid historic building…it all brings people back and back again. So again, welcome to TheGrit.com!
I started with the day’s soup special, the lentil soup, though the split pea dal sounded tempting too. Then I had the Falafel Platter: Five chickpea fritters served with lemon-tahini dressing, pita points, cucumbers, carrots, celery and radishes. I’ve been eating falafel a long time. Like, since my Israeli cousin ordered them for me in an Arab restaurant in Jaffa in July 1970. And these were as good as any I’ve ever had. Tasty and light.
Another option is The Grit Veggie Plate, in which you choose three items from among the dishes on the special board or from a selection of regular menu items. Gail went for this. I can’t remember which three she chose, other than one being two falafels and another being one of the soups. Maybe the other special of the day, a bean soup. Oh, and tabouli salad. She was as delighted as I was.
We don’t seem to get to vegetarian restaurants too often. One thing we realized is that when it comes to desserts, their offerings aren’t much different from the offerings of non-vegetarian restaurants. For instance, a beautiful red velvet cake from which one can order slices. And homemade cookies. Natalie and I split a cookie. We all shared a slice of cake.
The Grit’s website description is accurate. Their food does appeal to “ALL kinds of eaters.” It is indeed “delicious homemade food served in generous portions at inexpensive prices, coupled with a lovingly restored pair of handsome dining rooms in a splendid historic building.” And it would bring me “back and back again.”
That last line applies, by the way, to Athens dining—and Athens—in general. I’m hooked.
With work and travel, I haven’t been posting, being content instead to add to my coming attractions list (here and here). One more time, with catchup scheduled to begin tomorrow, if I can tear myself away from final-round Masters coverage.
The list so far:
1. Lunch two Fridays ago at La Grenouille, one of the great restaurants of New York.
2. Andrew Delbanco’s College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be , which I started reading on the plane flight to New York two Thursdays ago and finished last Monday.
3. Hockey on ice. A silly little post about a pun.
4. Our flight to Atlanta last Sunday, views of New York and Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake and downtown Baltimore, and my inability to come up with a clue to the Delta flight magazine crossword puzzle clue “New York’s ____ Island” even as I looked down on the very island and pointed it out to Gail.
5. Last Monday at the University of Georgia.
6. Dinner Monday night at Athens’ great 5 & 10.
7. Last Tuesday at the Masters. A dream come true.
[Photo by Dan Nakano]
8. Wednesday visit to the University of Georgia sports museum (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall).
9. The subsequent visit to the Georgia Museum of Art (the state museum, on campus).
10. Wednesday lunch at another great Athens restaurant (who knew they had so many?), The Grit.
12. Our flight home Thursday in a 767 set up for international travel, with a change in the weather.
Hmm. Maybe I won’t get through all of this. But doing so is the plan.
13. Oh, and one more post, on yet another long history book I need to add to my ever-growing list: William Dalrymple’s Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, due out Tuesday and reviewed today in the WSJ. It came out in January in the UK, to strong reviews. And Dalrymple has an op-ed piece on Afghanistan in tomorrow’s NYT.
Saturday night, I wrote a post on coming attractions, listing two items:
1. Lunch Friday at La Grenouille, one of the great restaurants of New York
2. Andrew Delbanco’s College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be , which I started reading on the plane flight to New York Thursday and finished this morning.
I’m still too busy to say more, but what I can do for now is add to the list:
3. Hockey on ice. A silly little post about a pun, if I get to it.
4. Our flight to Atlanta on Sunday, views of New York and Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake and downtown Baltimore, and my inability to come up with a clue to the Delta flight magazine crossword puzzle clue “New York’s ____ Island” even as I looked down on the very island and pointed it out to Gail.
5. A day at the University of Georgia. Today, that is. There’s still more we want to see, which we will on Wednesday, but we did see Sanford Stadium. It’s big.
6. Dinner tonight at 5 & 10. Who would have thought Athens has so fine a restaurant? How much eating has changed in the US in recent years.
Of course, by the time I get to these topics, the list will have grown longer, and nothing will be more exciting than tomorrow’s lead item:
7. A day at the Masters.
We head to Augusta at 6:30 AM tomorrow. I better get some rest. More another time.
[Cynthia Chung, New York Magazine]
Here we are, in New York. We woke up 3:50 Thursday morning for our 7:00 AM flight, landed at 3:00 PM, and spent twenty minutes at the gate waiting for the ground people to get the jetway door unlocked and the jetway properly aligned with the plane. I had the pleasure, early in our wait, of watching our two suitcases emerge first in line from below my seat and head down the conveyor belt. As we exited security, the carousel directly ahead on our left was ours and our two bags were right at that end of the belt. Never before had I walked out to find our bags within an arm’s reach.
By 4:45, we were in the corner room on the 9th floor of the Hotel Wales (subject of a post last October), on Madison and 92nd. Out two windows, we looked straight down 92nd and across 5th Avenue to Central Park and the reservoir At a right angle, out the other two, we looked south down Madison.
A couple of hours later, we were walking down Madison and then over to Italianissimo, an intimate Italian restaurant on 84th just east of 2nd that my cousin John had suggested we all meet at. Already there were John and Joan, plus my sister Gail and Jacques, in two days earlier from Paris.
It’s a lovely little place, with a row of tables along one wall and another along the opposite wall, leaving only a narrow path for staff and those heading to tables farther back or the bar. We were at the second table in, right by the check-in counter and the door. (You can pretty well make out where we were in the photo above, on the right side just short of the window.) The restaurant profile in New York magazine from which I grabbed the photo describes Italianissimo as “a homey 12-table spot, enhanced by fresh flowers, exposed brick walls, and dusty bottles of wine strewn throughout.” I don’t recall eating at a place quite that small. Certainly not that narrow. The atmosphere and service were a delight.
I won’t try to recount what we all ate. I’ll just talk about my own choices. As usual at such a restaurant, my first decision is whether to have a full-sized pasta order as my main dish, with soup or salad or antipasta to start, or whether to have a small order of pasta followed by a meat or fish dish.
A week earlier, at Cafe Juanita (the subject of my last post), I went for the full pasta order. This time, I started with a half order of spaghetti carbonara, described as “Spaghetti with a touch of cream, cured Italian Bacon, onions, and parsley.” Excellent choice.
John had ordered a couple of plates of breaded zucchini for us all to share while eating our appetizers. It came with a tomato dipping sauce and was an unexpected treat. Oh, I should mention the wonderful basil dipping sauce that accompanied the bread.
For my main dish, I ordered the “Filetto di sogliola alla Francese,” or “Fresh fillet of sole sautéed with white wine lemon and butter.” It was served with a small scoop of mashed potato adorned with a homemade potato chip and with green beans. The sole was both light and rich at the same time, again excellent, and the potato chip, minor adornment that it was, was fantastic. Accompanying all this was a delicious Barolo that Jacques had selected.
I didn’t order dessert, but John chose an order of Tartufo Ice cream to be shared, and my two spoonfuls were plenty.
As we were finishing dessert, Joel arrived, having flown into LaGuardia from North Carolina and taken a taxi straight to the restaurant. It was 9:15 by then, but we were in no hurry, so he ordered the daily pasta special, along with a glass of Montepulciano.
Gail reminds me that she had the salad special, consisting of lobster, avocado, and tomatoes on endive, followed by one of the entree specials, chicken on the bone with sausage and a balsamic reduction, accompanied by those same mashed potatoes and green beans.
A pretty good meal, all in all. I’d be happy to return. But in fact, if we were staying at the Wales again, I might rather just go downstairs to Paola’s, which sits eight floors below the hotel room we were in and which we have loved in the past. (See this earlier post.) I was going to suggest Paola’s to John as an alternative once we selected our hotel, but it was already booked for the evening.
In any case, we had a great evening, capped by the arrival of our son, the best dessert of all.
A couple of years back, we began regular outings across the sound to Bainbridge Island (leading to posts in December 2010 and August 2011). We became Bloedel Reserve members in anticipation of visits at least once a season, with walks through its woods, meadows, and Japanese Garden. We stumbled on Rolling Bay Café and made it a regular stop after our walks through the reserve. In town, there was Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, Cafe Nola for a meal, or Hitchcock, where we had dinner two Augusts ago on the very Friday that it was featured in the weekly Seattle Times restaurant review. (Not only that. There was a full-page photo of it on the cover of the weekend arts and entertainment supplement. No wonder it was so crowded.)
Then our outings stopped, for no discernible reason. Laziness? Busyness? I don’t know. But, inspired by our owl outing two weeks ago and determined to get out more, we decided yesterday morning—once the fog began to burn off and it became apparent that we were in for a beautiful day—to make the 12:20 ferry.
We weren’t alone. The ferry was packed. We were among the last dozen cars to get on. A little over a half hour later, we arrived. (The photo at top is the view of the eastern end of Eagle Harbor, where the ferry turns in and heads to the terminal.) Thanks to the quirks of the loading system, we found ourselves among the first off, arriving at Bloedel around 1:15 in full sunshine, with temperature in the low fifties.
Let me quote, as I have before, from the reserve’s self-description.
[The reserve] is an internationally renowned public garden and forest preserve. The founder’s vision was “to provide refreshment and tranquility in the presence of natural beauty,” and the Reserve’s mission is to “enrich people’s lives through a premier public garden of natural and designed Pacific Northwest landscapes.”
The Reserve’s 150 acres are a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, a Reflection Pool and the Bloedels’ former estate home. We invite you to visit this Northwest treasure.
We spent an hour and a half following the reserve’s trails, taking us through woods and marsh, over to the home, around back and down to bluffs above Port Madison Bay with views across Puget Sound and beyond to the Cascade Mountains, through the glen, up to the orchid trail and Japanese Garden, over to the moss garden and reflection pool, back across the meadow to the parking lot, and then into the shop.
I’ll go through that again, this time via photos.
From Bloedel, we drove around one of our favorite neighborhoods, a little south on the shore of Port Madison, then headed farther south to the Rollingbay neighborhood, which features the aforementioned Rolling Bay Café and Bay Hay & Feed, the nursery, feed store, clothing store, and pretty much general store in which the café is embedded.
From Bay Hay & Feed’s website:
Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker fell in love with the old building in 1979 and bought it. Fresh from the sale of their natural food store in New Hampshire, Howard & Ce-Ann pictured a New England general store that sold hay and grain, tools and farm supplies. Soon their horticultural backgrounds led them to add a greenhouse, plants and organic garden supplies. All the while they were repairing, repainting, and renewing the old Rodal Building circa 1912 that they named Bay Hay and Feed. With the helping hands of friends and family, the steady support of Island customers and the constant encouragement of the Rolling Bay neighborhood, Bay Hay began to grow and grow. A strong community spirit already existed, but a destination to walk or bike, a place to meet, greet, get coffee or a bite to eat, are important in a community. …
Like a beehive, Bay Hay has always been the center of continuous activity dawn to dusk – new projects built out of old projects, merchandise coming in and going out, plans devised and revised, new staff and customers arriving, old staff and customers returning. Spring chicks and greenhouse starts, harvest fairs and storm preparations, dogs sniffing for treats, gardeners looking for advice, all add up to the buzz of Bay Hay.
It’s a delightful place to visit. We had a snack, Gail bought some knick-knacks, we checked out the baby chicks, wandered the nursery in search of a cat garden sculpture Gail regrets not buying a few summers ago, and wished we lived nearby.
Next stop, we hoped, was Rolling Bay Winery. We had seen signs for wine tastings and thought maybe they were open. According to the website, they aren’t open in general, but are sometimes. Maybe we’d get lucky.
It’s about a mile south of Bay Hay according to google maps, down a dirt road. As we bounced along, I grew wary, remembering another dirt road just the other side of Bay Hay that we took south a few years ago, leading to a dead end. This one went right through though, straight to Manitou Beach, above which opened up the most magnificent view of Mt. Rainier. However, we were supposed to have found the winery just before reaching the beach, which is to say, we missed it. We took that as evidence that they weren’t open for business, or else surely we would have seen a sign pointing us the right way.
No problem. On driving up the hill from the ferry when we arrived, we had seen signs of a wine tasting, so we decided to head back to town and find it. Which led us to Harbor Square Wine Shop & Tasting Room, in a residential-commercial complex across from the ferry terminal and parking lot. Not a winery, but we decided to park and give it a try.
When we entered, two couples were at small tables drinking wines, the proprietor asked if we were interested in a wine tasting, we said sure, and then he went off to help them, giving us time to examine the wine display along the wall to the left. To our surprise, we recognized many of the wineries. Almost all were in Washington, including two we visited on our Walla Walla trip last July: Buty and Walla Walla Vintners.
The wine that immediately caught my eye was Saggi, produced by one of the Long Shadows winemakers. Just a week ago, we were given a bottle of Nine Hats Sangiovese. In reading up on it, I learned the story behind Nine Hats and Long Shadows:
Nine winemakers. Nine hats. The nine renowned winemakers of Long Shadows’ signature wines discover after each harvest that a percentage of their resulting barrels are more than they require to achieve that perfect balance in their final blends. These extra barrels now produce NINE HATS…wines of complexity and distinctive character.
Reading further, I discovered that the “signature wine” corresponding to the Nine Hats Sangiovese is the Saggi, a Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend. I thought—last week, this is—that we might enjoy trying both and comparing. First we would try the Nine Hats. If we liked it, we’d look for the Saggi.
But here it was, a 2008. No looking required. I put the bottle on the counter to buy. Then, as we continued to wait for our wine tasting, I saw a wine from Turley. Another coincidence, because also a week ago we were given a bottle of Turley old vine Zinfandel as a gift. Here was a 2011 Turley Cinsault. And it turned out to be one of the wines being offered in the wine tasting.
By now, the proprietor was free to give us some attention. We agreed to share a red wine flight, which would include that Cinsault, a wine from Walla Walla Vintners, a Rolling Bay wine, and a fourth that I now no longer remember. We then talked with him about the Saggi (which he said is one of his favorites), Buty wines, and wines from several other Walla Walla wineries that we visited or that he knew well.
The Turley Cinsault was my favorite of the wines we tasted. And our guide emphasized how astonishing it was that one could get a Turley for such a low price. We grabbed a bottle to buy along with the Saggi. Then Gail recalled how much she enjoyed one of the Buty white wines we tasted last July, so much so that we brought a bottle home with us. The store had a wide variety of Buty wines in stock. Gail was pretty sure that what she liked was the Chardonnay, so we got a bottle of that too.
We arrived at the car, three bottles of wine in hand, around 5:00. The ferry waiting area was just around the corner. Rather than eating an early dinner in town, we decided to head down the hill and catch whatever ferry was next. The 5:30 as it turned out, so our wait wouldn’t be long.
Once we paid and parked, I decided to head over to the terminal building, leaving Gail and the car behind temporarily. As I began my approach, I heard a distant roar, one that got louder and louder. Soon I saw some unusually well dressed teenagers. Rounding the bend, I discovered that there were hundreds. Tuxes, dresses, suits, corsages, boutonnières. Getting through them into the terminal building was hopeless. They blocked the doors and filled the entry. On closer inspection, I was surprised to see that they weren’t even high school juniors and seniors. No, 14- and 15-year-olds, evidently headed to a formal event in downtown Seattle.
I did find my way into the terminal, the long way around, then back to the car, arriving to tell Gail that it wouldn’t be a good idea, once parked on the boat, to head upstairs to the passenger decks, which would be wild.
We loaded a little late. As we drove on, we could see the teenagers pouring on above us via the elevated pedestrian ramp. No way we would go up and join them. Gail was content to sit in the car. I got out, looked out the side of the boat as we left Eagle Harbor and turned toward Seattle, taking in the views, then headed down to the stern to look back at the setting sun over Bainbridge and the Olympics.
It took a while to unload in Seattle. We pulled off into some traffic, with the formal teenagers walking in parallel and turning in front of us on 1st Avenue. Soon we were home.
For dinner: short ribs, mashed sweet potatoes, broccoli (all courtesy of Gail), and Nine Hats Sangiovese. A perfect end to a beautiful day.